This is a superzoom in every sense of the word. You can tell that much before you even wake it up, on account of the chunky barrel protruding from its body.
It writes raw files as well as JPEGs, has a fairly generous set of manual controls and -- best of all -- costs less than you'd imagine. It's yours for £300, all in.
The SL1000 is fronted by a massive 50x optical zoom, courtesy of a lens equivalent to 24-1200mm in a conventional 35mm camera. Buying glass of that calibre for your dSLR would set you back thousands, so for the casual wildlife and sports photographer (and maybe the odd private eye) it's a significant draw in such a cheap and comparatively light body.
Although the ribbed rubber housing might suggest otherwise, the zoom is entirely electronically controlled using either the cuff around the shutter release or a rocker on the side of the barrel that's been positioned to sit right below your thumb.
You can't swap out the lens the way you can in a dSLR, of course, but then why would you with so great a range, unless you have very specific needs?
Unfortunately though, with so much glass to move around I found the battery to lack stamina in my tests, as despite charging it to the brim overnight before heading out it died after shooting 50 images (100 files, as it was writing JPEGs and raws side by side) and 2 minutes 32 seconds of video.
Maximum aperture stands at a very respectable f/2.9 at wide angle to allow for shallow depths of field, while at the longest end of the 50x zoom it narrows to a still decent f/6.5.
Build and features
The rear-mounted screen is hinged to facilitate more creative work. You can easily shoot from a low level by tilting it up, or over the heads of a concert crowd if you tilt down and look up.
If you prefer a more traditional stance, there's an electronic viewfinder just above it. Although you can't angle this if you find its position uncomfortable there is a dioptre control to move the small internal screen forwards and backwards to suit your eyesight and a sensor to one side that switches automatically between the LCD and eyepiece when it detects your eye getting close to the camera body.
Unfortunately this is a bit too sensitive for its own good, and I found that it had a tendency to switch to the eyepiece screen when I was using the rear LCD with the camera held a little too close to my body.
As well as a regular auto mode it has shutter and aperture priority options, although the aperture priority mode is rather half-hearted, allowing you to select from only three aperture positions at any zoom level. This will allow you to control the depth of field, but only on a rather coarse scale, so true creatives might be tempted to look elsewhere.
The sensor stretches to 16.2 megapixels, which translates to 4,608x3,456 pixels once the files have been written, leaving plenty of room for cropping in the highly unlikely event that the optical zoom doesn't deliver the framing you're after.
The SL1000 shoots both JPEG and raw files, so I set it to shoot the two side by side in my tests and performed my analysis with reference to both the in-camera JPEGs and to the raw files following their conversion to TIFFs using the bundled converter software with all settings on default.
Although in regular use you won't get any closer to your subject than 40cm at wide angle and 3.5m at full zoom, regular macro mode trims the wide angle measurement to just 7cm, with super macro chopping it further to an impressive 1cm. The results are good, with a sharp subject and a smooth fall-off in focus for the surrounding area, both in front and behind. However, very close examination of the results does reveal some dappling in fine detail.
Maximum sensitivity is ISO 3,200 if you want to retain the maximum possible image size, but if you're happy to cut it to eight or four megapixels you can hike it to ISO 6,400 and ISO 12,800 respectively. Be careful, though, as even at middling sensitivities of ISO 800 I found that the SL1000 introduced a fair amount of grain into the result.